I would appreciate any feedback, suggestions, opinions, or revisions to the following MBA application Essay.

Thank you for your help.

Essay Topic: Please describe any circumstances that may have affected your performance in school

My performance in my first two years of undergraduate studies and my GMAT may be of concern to the admissions committee. However, I feel both should be evaluated in light of the proper circumstances.

I faced several unique challenges through the course of my undergraduate career that significantly disrupted the pursuit of my degree. Specifically, two factors negatively affected my academic performance:

1) I had an undiagnosed learning disability: Attention Deficit Disorder (non-hyperactive)
2) I worked 50-60 hours per week so that I could financially support my disabled mother

A Learning disability is defined as "the perceived inability of an individual to analyze, process, and produce information in a traditional learning environment". That is a clinical definition. For me, a learning disability is much more personal.

My childhood and teenage life was academically challenging. My grades suffered because I was unable to successfully analyze, process, and produce information. Each new school year began with the hope and optimism things would change, but quickly the aggravation and frustration of previous years set in. Despite the effort to remedy my learning deficiencies, my academic struggles continued through the early years of college.

In 1994, my freshman year of college, I became the head of my household. The loss of my father made it necessary for me to take care of my mother–through emotional and financial support. It was my joy and honor to care of this wonderful women who had given so much to me throughout my life.

I juggled making a living with continuing my education my business. I took my college courses in the evening from Monday through Friday, and I worked 50-60 hours per week at my company. I had very little time to address any of the learning difficulties I encountered with my coursework. Consequently, on many occasions I fell behind in my classes. As a last resort, I often had to withdraw from the courses in order to avoid a poor grade. Despite the difficulties I was experiencing in school I had a hardened belief that I was better than this.

My academic performance drastically changed for the better during the spring term of my junior year–my doctor diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This learning disability had caused tremendous academic problems for me, but something far more damaging had occurred: it had stolen my ability to dream and tricked me into settling for less than my best. My “ineptness” at following directions or even remembering them, or my paralytic frustrations when confronted by a sheet of instructions telling me how to conduct the simplest things, was no longer a mystery. It was time for me to take action.

I devised an action plan to minimize my symptoms and maximize my true learning abilities. I determined I was going to be active in every part of my education. The philosophy of "Educational Empowerment" became was an active part of my plan. To me, Educational Empowerment meant the ability and knowledge to construct a learning environment matching my learning strengths against each semester's objectives. This gave me the greatest opportunity for success.

Another key part of my plan was to attack begin Biofeedback: a program similar to a computer game that involves training the brain. The objective is to control a video display by achieving a mental state that produces an increase in brain waves. My doctor called it "aerobics for the brain."

My hard work and persistence paid off: I experienced a significant upward trend in grades, and attained a B.S. degree with a combined 3.48 GPA in the final two years (last 60+ units) of college.

Although the two worlds of college and business are different, they work hand-in-hand with each other making it very important for my learning strategies to be easily transferable from college to a business setting in order to reach my professional goals. Realizing this caused me to use my time and efforts in college to mold my learning strategies in a way that had a positive impact on my professional life.

I have long desired to be apart of your prestigious MBA program – there are many MBA programs throughout the world, but UCLA is where I want to be. I have prepared myself for an MBA as well as I know how. I have invested in myself by enrolling in a GMAT prep course, and I have purchased GMAT books and software. Despite my diligence, I did not score well on the actual GMAT exam. Dissatisfied with my results, I devised a new preparation strategy and took numerous practice tests. Even with this effort, I was unable to raise my score. Thus, I determined that it would not be in my best interest to retake the GMAT exam.

I understand the critical role that the GMAT plays as a part of an MBA applicant's portfolio. However, my result on the exam does not accurately indicate how I will perform in your MBA core curriculum and program. My undergraduate performances in courses very similar to your core curriculum accurately represent my capabilities (e.g. accounting, finance, leadership, and several marketing courses).

In the last year, I have committed myself to an excess of 30 hours a week toward my application and the GMAT. I have sought out and maximized every opportunity I could find in order to develop myself into the kind of candidate who will learn from and contribute to the UCLA MBA program. I have kept myself on an upward professional track and have worked diligently to become qualified for the opportunity to attend UCLA. If given the opportunity, I will contribute my maturity, creativity, international perspective, and my unique professional background to the UCLA MBA community.
Hi,

I read your essay and, although I don't have time right now to go through your essay in detail, I can point out a few things to consider.

MBAs like a different format. (I am an MBA too.) They want the solution/conclusion near the front of the essay.

Essentially, it should look something like this:

Problem:

Solution:

Background Information:

Summary:

The problem and solution parts, which together constitute 20% of the overall essay, tell the reader the essential key information. If the reader were to stop after solution, he has sufficient information to base his decision. In other words, you need to change from a "story telling" to "delivering information" style.

The other issue is the GMAT. I doubt you can simply walk away from the GMAT because your score is too low. If I were on the Admission's Committee, here's how I would state my reasons for concern: "Ramin has shown a history of walking away from courses and his GMAT when failure or poor results were likely. Although he had grave difficulties in his life, he continues to exhibit this same pattern with his GMAT. At this point, he should be able to focus and perform well. If he doesn't want to undertake the GMAT we must interpret that a) he is likely to perform poorly; and b) of more concern, he continues to withdraw when the results are unlikely to match his hopes. What is to say that this behavior and results won't continue at our program?"

If you are bound and determined to avoid the GMAT, then I think you need to speak to someone at UCLA and explain your situation. Find out if you can win their approval for an exemption from the GMAT. And you also need to point to areas of success to compensate for the missing GMAT. In other words, "I am confident of my academic abilities as shown by my GPA and blah blah blah and I am confident of my ability to succeed because of blah blah blah."

Your essay helps to explain why things have not gone well for you, but your essay doesn't leave the reader with confidence that things will go right for you in the future. That is a problem.

In summary, you need to have someone at UCLA provide you with an exemption from the GMAT. And you need to strengthen your essay in both form (give me the conclusion/solution sooner) and content (tell me why you are going to succeed in the future).

I hope those comments help you.

MountainHiker
Hi MountainHiker,

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my essay. Second, I really appreciate your feedback and candid advice in regard to my GMAT situation.

The point you made about the potential concern of the admission committee is valid. I did not think of my situation from that perspective. I guess I can be seen as a potential risk for an MBA program.

I have inquired about a GMAT exemption. However, all six business schools that I am applying to have told me that they do not offer this waiver unless an applicant has a Master Degree or is a certified CPA.

Taking this in to consideration, i'm afraid that my only solution is to sell my other qualities (as you mentioned) and explicitly explain my GMAT situation without portraying myself as a risk to their program.

Could you offer me any suggestions on how I to restate my GMAT Essay?

Again, I greatly appreciate your help!

Thanks
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Would you mind if I reposted my essay after I have modified it according to your suggestion?

Thanks
Enigma,

By all means, repost your essay.

Hope my advice helps.

MountainHiker
Enigma,

In thinking about your response, I have an idea for you.

You mentioned that the business schools you have spoken to don't allow an exemption from the GMAT unless they are CPAs (which I find weird).

If I were in your shoes and were bound and determined to never take the GMAT, then I would do this: Talk to School A, develop a relationship/friendship with one of the key personnel, explain your situation, and propose the following to him: "I understand that accounting courses usually give first year MBA students fits, and I further understand that you provide CPAs with an exemption from the GMAT. If I were to take the two or three accounting courses at night school/correspondence and do exceedingly well, would you be prepared to extend your GMAT exemption to me too?"

The hard cold reality is this: Many students perform much differently in the MBA program than they did in their first degree. I certainly performed much better. After working for a few years, you have a different and more mature outlook. You're earlier academic performance is not the end all and be all. Motivation definitely plays a part. That said, you must still be a bright individual and be able to handle the different topics. From my experience, the courses that gave students fits in the first year were accounting and statistics. If you can take those courses at night school or through correspondence, so much the better. It will prove that you are capable. Many people repeat those courses again in their MBA program.

Take another run at your essay. I don't know you or your background, so it is hard for me to suggest detailed changes. All I can do is point to strategic changes that you should consider.

I hope that helps.

MountainHiker
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Hi MountainHiker,

Thanks for your Accounting suggestion, I will definitely give it some more thought.

Before I get in to detail about other things I wanted to know if you could possibly omit my real name from the previous posts to this thread. I would appreciate it.

GMAT:

In both of your discussion posts you stated "bound and determined to never take the GMAT". I have actually taken the GMAT, however, I had a very low score. In fact, each school that I am applying to have received a copy of my GMAT score report.

Prior to taking the test I enrolled in Kaplan's GMAT prep course and I self-studied for two months. I invested a great deal of money and time in my preparation. Thus, you can imagine how frustrated and disapointed I was when I received such a low score.

At one point I decided that I would retake the examination. I devised a new GMAT preparation strategy, addressed my weaknesses, and worked on my strengths. I took a few full-length practice exams to gage my performance and noticed that my score was very similar to what I received on the actual GMAT exam. As a result, I decided that it would be pointless to retake the GMAT examination. That's pretty much where I stand at this point.

My background:

Age: 29
Work Experience: 10 Years Full-time
Undergrad Degree: B.S. Marketing
GPA: 3.1 Cumulative ~ 3.5 Major

Work Experience:

1993: Summer Marketing Internship for Intel Corporation

1994 - I invented a product designed to reduce nicotine and tar intake caused by cigarettes by 60%. I established my own company, formed an alliance with distributors in the U.S. and U.K who successfully sold my product. Two years later I sold the business to a U.K. firm.

1996 - I formed a limited partnership and bought a distressed retail business in Los Angeles. I gained a 150% return on investment in the first year of business. Managed a staff of 10. Three years later I sold the business.

1999-2004 - I began as an analyst working for a major consulting firm in London. I was promoted to Consultant within one year. I have had exposure to many industries and have worked in six countries to date. I currently train new analysts, lead client project teams, and meet with clients on a regular basis.

I am however, at a standstill in terms of progressing in my career as a consultant. I need an MBA to add credibility when I meet with clients, 'move up the ladder', and to gain a broader skill set. Eventually I want to form my own management consulting firm serving different sectors while offering a variety of consulting services.

Sorry if I've overwhelmed you with boredom!:-|

Dear enigma,

I have eliminated your real name in all the places I could find it. If I have overlooked anything, please let me know and I will fix it.

With regard to your work history, you've done very well. You certainly have a strong entrepreneurial bent.

Given that your background is marketing, I trust you want your MBA focused on marketing?

If you wanted to pursue finance to give you a broader exposure, I might suggest taking the CFA program. Many people believe the CFA program is better than an MBA because it is hard core finance and because there are some standards that must be adhered to. Perhaps with a CFA, you could then take your MBA without having a GMAT? Just more food for thought.

With your strong work program, I would be inclined to talk to someone directly at the MBA program. Explain your situation. Explain your strong work background and credentials. Rules are always made to be broken. Perseverance still counts for a lot.

I hope this information is helpful.

MountainHiker